The Lutheran Church in Liberia
Who is the Lutheran Church in Liberia and what are its ministries?
LCL Women's Annual Meeting
The Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL), a member of the Lutheran World Federation
, has more than 71,000 members in 46 parishes with over 385 congregations and 330 preaching points scattered in twelve of the 15 political subdivisions of Liberia. There are 70 ordained pastors, 110 ordained deacons and deaconesses, and more than 300 evangelists spread out over eight church districts.
As Liberia suffered greatly throughout its 14-year civil war (1989-2003), so did the LCL. Church leaders estimate that for 90% of churches their properties were either looted or completely in need of reconstruction. Since the war ended, the LCL has focused on rebuilding its institutions, strengthening church structures, and revitalizing its faithful service, both within its own membership and to the entire country through its ministries of preaching, teaching and healing.
In preparation for its 150th anniversary on April 28, 2010, the Lutheran Church in Liberia is preparing for its next 150 years of ministry with a five-year strategic planning process that analyzes the church's work in the post-war period and beyond.
Curran health care staff visit remote Lofa County village in Northern Liberia
Word and sacrament, health care, and education are the LCL’s strongest ministries. The LCL has a strong word and sacrament ministry that responds to new challenges and invitations to preach the Gospel in Liberia and beyond. Because many LCL members found themselves displaced in other countries during the civil war, the LCL’s outreach evangelism beyond the borders of Liberia was strengthened even during the conflict. The LCL established a mission presence in the country of Guinea in 2005, where an LCL missionary pastor serves and several congregations have already been started that may one day constitute a new Lutheran Church in Guinea.
The Lutheran Church in Liberia is also well known for its health care ministries. Lutherans were the first denomination to build a hospital in Liberia. Phebe Hospital opened in 1921 and the Phebe School of Nursing was the first nursing school in the country. Curran Lutheran Hospital, approximately 225 miles north of Monrovia, has provided health care to surrounding districts and residents from neighboring towns of Guinea for 80 years. In spite of being attacked and looted, Phebe Hospital never stopped offering services during the war. Curran Hospital was destroyed twice, but continued to offer a mobile clinic.
The LCL also operates a health center (and recently revitalized agriculture program) at Pallipo Parish in rural southeastern Liberia, and clinics at Degei and Nyor parishes. In addition, in 1975, the LCL helped found in 1975 the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL), a consortium of Christian health ministries that collaborate in providing services and procuring health care supplies.
The Lutheran Church in Liberia offers counseling, testing and support for individuals affected by HIV and AIDS. It is the only church institution in Liberia training counselors to work with HIV-positive persons, providing both a rigorous counselor training workshop over a period of six months, as well as shorter awareness and education workshops for health workers, students and teachers, commercial sex workers, police officers and members of the armed forces.
Students at St Stephens School
The LCL’s education ministry is also strong. At one time, the LCL operated 90 schools. By the end of the war, only 20 schools were open. Today, almost 40 high schools, junior high and elementary schools are operating. The LCL's Christian Education Department is drafting four levels of Sunday school curriculum and bringing Under the Tree (UTT), a peace and recreation program begun during the war to provide safe places for at-risk children living in large displacement camps, to rural areas.
The Lutheran Training Institute, formerly an LCL boarding high school, offers vocational training to Liberians–many of them who were combatants during the war–who need skills-training and rehabilitation.
LCL pastors receive their training at the Gbarnga School of Theology, a non-denominational institution training pastors for Lutheran, Methodist, and Anglican Churches in Liberia. The Louis T. Bowers Lay Leaders and Ministry Training Center (LTB-LLMTC) provides programs specifically designed for lay leaders to increase the effectiveness of their ministry.How do the Lutheran Church in Liberia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions. The ELCA Global Mission unit stewards a church-to-church relationship with the Lutheran Church in Liberia. This relationship is deepened and extended by the ELCM’s relationship, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the ELCA Upper Susquehanna Synod.Churchwide funding
through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by the LCL, including leadership development and capacity building for the development of effective programs and ministries, sustainable development in the areas of health care, education, and water resources. In addition, the ELCA provides grant support to the Lutheran World Federation/World Service program in Liberia. Three ELCA mission personnel serve in Liberia in health care, education, and leadership development.
Through its companion relationship with the LCL, the ELCA Upper Susquehanna Synod has been a stalwart supporter for many years. Alongside hundreds of Liberians, volunteers from the synod were involved in the cleanup and restoration of Phebe Hospital and the renovation of Curran Hospital. With Global Health Ministries, the Synod has provided equipment and furnishings for the Curran Hospital operating room.
The ELCA also funds significant work in Liberia through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a global communion of 140 churches (including the ELCA) and 68 million people that is grounded in a common Lutheran faith. The LWF provides space for Lutherans from around the world to share joys, challenges, and expertise as they seek the healing of the world. ELCA World Hunger funds help support the Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF’s relief and development arm, and the Department for Mission and Development (DMD), which focuses on holistic ministries through which the church participates in God’s mission to all creation.
In Liberia, ELCA World Hunger funds support the LWF's Department for World Service Liberia country program which focuses on programs such as:
Liberia: the context in which the Lutheran Church in Liberia serves
- Emergency Preparedness
- Agriculture and Food Security
- Community Rehabilitation and Development
- Water and Sanitation
- Infrastructure Rehabilitation
- Rural Industry
- Trauma Healing, Peace Building and Reconciliation
Lay Ministry Training
The Republic of Liberia, the second oldest independent country in Africa after Ethiopia, was established in 1847 by former slaves sent to West Africa in the early 1800s, even though the area was already inhabited by various indigenous ethnic groups who had occupied the region for centuries. Today the country’s 3.2 million people speak English and over 20 tribal languages. Ethnically Liberia is 95% comprised of indigenous tribes, 2.5 % Americo-Liberians, descendants of former U.S. slaves, 2.5% Congo People, descendants of Caribbean slaves. The religions of Liberia are indigenous beliefs (40%), Christian (40%) and Muslim (20%).
In 1980, the government was overturned in a military coup. During the 15-year civil war that began in 1989, some 200,000 people were killed, another 750,000 fled the country as refugees, and 1.2 million were internally displaced. After Liberia's president Charles Taylor was forced to resign and flee the country, a peace accord was signed, leading to a transitional government in late 2003. Democratic elections held in 2005 elected president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist, and Africa's first elected female head of state.
In the aftermath of the war, Liberia’s economy and social infrastructure all but collapsed, and basic services such as water and electricity, telephone, etc., are being restored at a slow pace. Approximately 85% of the physical infrastructure was completely destroyed, looted, or abandoned without maintenance for the entire period of the war. Every town and village, including the capital city was damaged by the war, and there is widespread need of shelter, water and sanitation, protection and health care.
According to LCL Bishop Sumoward Harris, President Johnson-Sirleaf has passionately led the country in major efforts of government restructuring and national rehabilitation. She has appealed for the cancellation of Liberia’s debt in her international travels and insisted Liberia will not be used by any neighboring country or internal group to wage war or subversive activities against another. She is visiting every sub-political division in the country to assess resources, plan investment, encourage the population, and underscore the primacy of national security. President Johnson-Sirleaf has taken steps to reduce corruption, build support from international donors, and encourage private investment. Her challenges include rebuilding the economy with 80% of the population living under the poverty level, an 85% unemployment rate, homelessness for much of the population, and destruction of much of the infrastructure, especially in and around Monrovia.
For up-to-date information on Liberia, type “Liberia” into an online search engine or visit: